Sleep Like A Baby Tonight!
Sleep like a baby tonight – Imagine your newborn baby snuggily swaddled in a soft blanket lying in his crib. Your baby is breathing gently, with a little smile on his lips; you hear his soft cooing sounds as he brings his thumb to his mouth. He is slowly falling asleep. You gently close the door to the nursery and tiptoe down the hall. Perhaps, you make yourself a cup of tea and read a book that you have been waiting patiently to start reading. You will have some quiet time with your toddler or with your partner. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could experience this bliss! I know that I would have loved this experience when I was a new mother. What would you do if you could have this quiet time? If I had only known then, what I do now!
My first baby (Becky) was born at 31 weeks, 9 weeks early! She weighed less than 3 pounds; she was very tiny. That was 40 years ago, and then, a baby born that early was considered very premature. I knew I wanted to breastfeed to give her the best chance of success, but, she was not strong enough to nurse from the breast a first. Tube feeds were started until she was strong enough to suck from a premie nipple with tiny amounts of breast milk. She was slow at sucking and swallowing, and we worked very hard to get her to be able to gain weight.
Premies and Sleep Trouble
She was in the hospital nursery for 4 weeks. I stayed with her all day, every day, only going home at night to sleep. I would pump my breasts with a hand pump and my husband would be the “milk man” delivering the milk to the nursery when he went into work. He was a pediatric resident at the same hospital. After the 4 weeks, she was finally discharged home. Her growth remained slow and nursing was still difficult. My husband would feed her with the bottle at the alternate times from breast feeding. There were no “premie” diapers or premie clothes so we improvised and cut diapers in half and used doll clothes at first.
The Sleep Struggle
Once home, we struggled nightly having “our premie” sleep for long enough stretches of time. I needed to have enough sleep to function well during the daytime hours. We tried to place a small radio in her crib for music and that helped some. But every time the radio announcer spoke, she would wake-up and cry.
There were no “iPods or iPhones with playlists” at that time to keep the music going to sustain a good sleep period for her. I was unaware of the secret to a good night’s sleep. My baby kept waking every 2 to 3 hours until I was so sleep deprived. I actually took her to sleep with me on the couch, with her lying on my chest! How unsafe that was! Eventually, when our baby was 8 months old and still waking many times a night!
“Crying It Out” Did Not Work For Us
We let her “cry it out” which was another bad situation. I was so stressed by this effort, I would be crying too.
I knew nothing about Infant Massage as a new mother and still did not when my two next children (3 and 8 years later) were born. They were full-term babies and did know how to breastfeed at least. But, each of them were poor sleepers, and I was still clueless as to how to get that blissful time “sleeping like a baby” that we were imagining earlier.
Infant Massage would have been a wonderfully magic tool to use for all of my babies, for myself and for the babies, but no one had ever mentioned this to me as a possibility. There were no home computers with google to discover other methods of bonding and connecting with newborns other than holding and rocking them, talking to them, or having Dad take turns with these same skills. I never came in contact with a person who knew about infant massage even though my husband was a pediatric resident and I was a physical therapist, but working with an adult population.
NICU Parent’s Interest In Infant Massage
It was not until 22 years later, when my family moved to Philadelphia and began to work at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, (CHOP) that I began to specialize in providing “developmental care” to premature and newborn infants with medical and surgical issues, hospitalized in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). It was here, in the NICU, that I noted a number of families interested in learning to perform infant massage with their babies. At first I was not prepared to provide this aspect of treatment for the families.
I felt that I should know this but I did not, I was required to bring in another therapist to provide this information and instructions for the families of “my patients”. Many different parents were requesting this. I decided that I needed to gain expertise in this area! I gathered information on the subject and found a course that I attended. I completed the course and gained my Certificate in Infant Massage Instruction. From that point on, I became the “go-to” expert in the NICU providing instruct parents and families in infant massage with the babies there. The other physical therapists working in the NICU requested that I provide the teaching in infant massage to “their” babies when families were interested.
From NICU To Nap Time
There was a baby on my schedule at CHOP who was having trouble taking naps. His nurse asked me to let her page me just before a nap time and relax the baby with massage and see if I can create a relaxed deep sleep for this baby. The nurse was hoping that I would be able to work with him several times and when I was successful show the parents how to perform the long slow but firm relaxing massage strokes to help him sleep at other times and before bed. It worked well; he started taking better daytime naps and slept better at night, waking only for 1 feed during the night instead of many fussy wakeful times.
Today, I am retired from my work in physical therapy at CHOP. However I still wanted to use my gift of sharing infant massage with others. I began Infant Massage of the Main Line. Infant massage can change your picture drastically and for the better, my family would have been much better off and if I had been aware sooner and learned infant massage.
At present many of you are experiencing constant sleep deprivation. This is often a standard feature of motherhood; this is very concerning!
Sleep loss impairs judgment leading to the possibility of any of the following:
• Sleepiness causes drowsiness, which in your home can be dangerous enough, but, on the road, it can slow reaction time and cause accidents. Sleep loss can also lead to accidents or injuries at your job.
• Lack of sleep hurts your cognitive processes. It impairs attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem solving, making learning more difficult. During the night, various sleep cycles play a role in “consolidating” memories. If you don’t get enough sleep, you won’t remember what you learned and experienced during the day. Sleepiness makes you forgetful and less able to deal with your daily family needs.
• Lack of sleep ages your skin and gives you a sallow look. It can make losing weight much more difficult.
• And of course, lack of sleep makes you a GROUCH!
I have watched many new families, including that of my own daughter Becky, now as a new mom herself, struggle with her attempts at quieting or comforting her infant in the evenings, trying to get the baby calm for a good night’s sleep. I was able to share my gift with her and she is now using the massage routine effectively in her home in Olathe’ Kansas!
Sleeplessness Does Not Need To Continue
The best news is that sleeplessness does not need to persist for you. You do not need to continue waking night after night, multiple times with your baby. Imagine you and your baby have had a good night’s sleep. Both of you are happily awaking in the morning and are able to bond with the first morning’s feeding.
You and your baby have good eye contact and smiling faces preparing for a happy start to the day. Your baby still will have times of stress. Being hungry or having a wet or dirty diaper is stressful to young babies.
You feel comfortable with the diaper changes and feed times and when other times of stress occur, you are easily able to comfort your baby, having them nap or have calm quiet wake periods. As your baby grows and learns about his environment, you both can expand their awareness of their surroundings and provide longer stretches of calm wake periods.
In addition to the improved sleep pattern, there are many benefits for the babies from infant massage. It helps the GI system by helping the baby digest milk, formula and foods better; alleviates constipation and gas; promotes a positive relationship between parent and baby and helps both to be relaxed and improve gain of deep sleep. For the parent this method fosters attachment of parent and baby. It promotes and empowers the parents to identify their baby’s cues and provide calmness and contentment together. Lastly, infant massage promotes healthy infant development.
ABOUT JUDY COPLAN
Judy Coplan is an expert in Infant Massage Instruction. For over 16 years she has helped expectant parents and parents of newborn babies. She received her Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Physical Therapy degrees from Boston University, Sargent College; and her Infant Massage Certification from Loving Touch Foundation. Her business is Infant Massage of the Main Line.
She has helped families of many babies, from the tiniest premature infant to many who are hospitalized for medical and surgical issues. Judy has worked with colicky infants and mothers with post-partum depression. She is writing today on the benefits of infant massage for improved sleep in newborns.